STOCKHOLM • Sweden's world pole vault record holder Armand Duplantis can barely wait to make his "childhood dream" come true by competing in his first Olympics this summer in Tokyo.
The 21-year-old will have enormous pressure on his shoulders in Japan, but he said he was learning to live with the expectations that exploded with his record-breaking exploits last year.
"I think I'm starting to get used to the pressure now. People have been putting pressure on me in the past year, ever since I broke the world record," said Duplantis, who divides his time between Sweden and Louisiana in the United States.
"At every competition I go to, everybody expects me to win, everybody expects me to jump at the world record at least. I'm getting used to it, it's something you just have to deal with. I feel like I'm ready for it. I try not to let the pressure break me down."
Even in a year so disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Swede established himself as one of track and field's brightest new faces last year by setting a sensational world record of 6.18m indoors before vaulting 6.15m outdoors, finally eclipsing the 1994 mark set by all-time great Sergey Bubka.
Duplantis, whose outdoor season will step up a gear when he competes at the Ostrava meet on Wednesday before the Diamond League curtain-raiser in Gateshead, England four days later, has had to wait a year longer than he expected to make his Olympic debut.
The postponed Games have not taken the shine off the anticipation surrounding the youngster, whose parents are also his coaches. His American father Greg was a 5.80m vaulter himself.
"The Olympics have been my childhood dream," he said.
"Ever since I was three years old, I've always wanted to be in the Olympics, I've always wanted to win the Olympics. I have the opportunity now to go in there and win the Olympics. I'm going to try to make sure I make the most of that opportunity."
Pole vault is the most technical of disciplines, requiring sprint speed on the runway and enormous upper body strength, all combined with agility and extraordinary timing. But Duplantis feels he is in the groove.
"I feel like training's been going really well. I'm fit, I'm healthy, I feel really comfortable on the track right now. I feel like I have good rhythm on my jump and the timing is good, and that's really the most important thing," he said.
"That's what I've worked on the most, just the technical side, the timing of the jump which is very critical and very hard to perfect."